Louis Kestenbaum, who began Elkay Plastics Co. in 1968 and was a founder of what is now the Western Plastics Association, died Feb. 14 at the age of 93.
A service for Kestenbaum, known as “Papa Lou,” took place Feb. 15 at Beth Jacob Congregation in Beverly Hills, Calif.
His family said, “He lived a good long life and made an enduring contribution to the flexible packaging industry.”
Kestenbaum founded Elkay Plastics Co. Inc. in 1968 and sold the business in 1990.
He was a founder and former president of the California Film Extruders and Converters Association, now operating as the Western Plastics Association. Kestenbaum, with a small group of other plastics company owners, formed CFECA in 1973 in an effort to deal with government regulations.
Commerce, Calif.-based Elkay Plastics manufactures and supplies plastic bags and has distribution sites in Austell, Ga.; Bensenville, Ill.; Carrollton, Texas; Aurora, Colo.; Phoenixville, Pa.; Hayward, Calif.; and Kent, Wash.
An online extension of the business, Elkay University, offers modules for training individuals in the uses of multiple types of plastic bags for food service and health care applications.
Louis Kestenbaum was a residential home builder and, during an economic slump in 1965, looked for a way to supplement his income. While at a grocery store with his wife, Trudy, he noticed that many items were packaged in disposable single-use plastic bags.
He visited facilities of Central Bag Co. and International Poly, then among the biggest flexible packaging firms. Eventually, Elkay Plastics acquired both companies.
At the time, most polyethylene bag suppliers did not maintain stocks of their most popular sized bags. Kestenbaum's niche was in having many sizes in stock, and he advertised Elkay as a “customer's warehouse.” Whatever a customer needed was immediately available.
During his tenure, Elkay Plastics built an inventory termed the largest in the country, had branches in Washington, Colorado and Texas and became the largest importer of plastic bags from Taiwan. Elkay began converting to augment inventory levels as needed and started manufacturing custom sizes and custom printing.
Elkay Plastics continues under the guidance of Louis Chertkow and has grown into a national organization.
Kestenbaum's survivors include two daughters, Rene Peters and Lynda Kurtzer; two grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and a sister, Rita Adler. Trudy, Rene and Lynda worked in the business at various times.
The Orthodox synagogue in Beverly Hills, Calif., dedicated its family youth department in the name of Kestenbaum's wife, Trudy, who died in 2010.
The Harkham Hillel Hebrew Academy in Beverly Hills lists Kestenbaum as a “longtime friend and supporter” of the provider of Jewish education.
Chevra Kadisha Mortuary in West Hollywood handled the arrangements.